UK advises against India travel

| 08 October 2002 22:03 IST

The British government has strongly advised against travel to Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Tripura as well border areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab.

While cautioning Britons against several other states of India due to communal violence, Cauvery dispute and such other issues, Amritsar, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner or Jaisalmer as well as Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim are considered to be safe.

The Travel Advise in this regard has come from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the British Government department responsible for foreign affairs through its headquarters in London and embassies, high commissions and consulates throughout the world.

An official protest against 'wrong advise' has already come from the Goa government as the FCO has cautioned the Britons not to walk alone in isolated places in popular tourist areas after dark, fearing sexual assault against women.

The British women are also advised to respect local codes of dress and behaviour. Half-nude (or sometimes even nude) foreigners swimming or sunbathing against official warning is a common scene on Goan beaches.

The advisory on India lists out several details on safety and security, terrorism, criminal activities, strikes and mass unrest, poor driving standards and even health precautions. These are also listed out on the FCO website http://www.fco.gov.uk.

Giving top priority to the Indo-Pak conflict in the advisory in terms of safety and security, the FCO states, "were a conflict to start, our capacity to evacuate British nationals would be limited".

Though militant attacks are not directed against tourists, the advisory points out at several violent attacks occurred recently in public places. Recalling the incident of militants taking five foreign nationals including two Britons hostage in July 1995, the FCO states the risk of kidnapping still exists.

In fact British visitors are advised not to follow advice of any travel agent if they try to convince that it is safe to travel to Jammu or Kashmir, in spite of increased official promotion of Kashmir as a tourist centre.

Following the recent terrorist attack on a temple at Gandhinagar in Gujarat, the British government predicts "there is a risk of heightened tension in Gujarat over the coming days". The situation in Gujarat also remains volatile, it states, due to communal violence.

While requesting British nationals to exercise caution in Islamic countries, the FCO states "India is one of a number of countries where there is an increased risk to visibly British institutions and organisations from global terrorism".

Travellers visiting Mysore and Bangalore are also cautioned about prevailing tension due to water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, leading to farmers' protests and frequent road and rail disruptions.

Besides this, Britons are also cautioned about attacks on trekkers in the mountains of Himachal, bomb explosions and petty crimes in Delhi, violent crimes in rural Bihar, landmine explosions in Andhra Pradesh, early-hour armed robberies in Mumbai etc.

The FCO advisory also cautions not to carry drugs, stating that even small amount of narcotic substance penalises a person for 10-year imprisonment, besides pre-trial detention due to slow judicial process.

Protesting against projection of Goa as unsafe place for women, chief minister Manohar Parrikar has flayed it, stating that there are more rape cases taking places in the UK than in Goa. Half of the 15 rape cases taken places in Goa in last 10 years are a result of foreign women initially developing relation with the locals and then shouting of rape, he adds.

Goa is one of the safest destinations for anybody in the world, he claims, alleging further that such propaganda is the work of vested interests that want to divert European tourists from Goa. The tiny coastal state gets almost one lakh tourists every year, from the UK alone.

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